Tension at the Chittagong Hill Tracts has been on the rise as an organised movement by Bangali settlers to undermine the legitimate demands of adivasi political groups, as well as the violence resulting from it, have left the indigenous population on the edge.
The Bangali groups have taken a strong stand against the indigenous groups, mainly PCJSS and UPDF, criticising them for demanding the quick implementation of the 1997 peace accord and a "devious plan" to dismember the CHT from the rest of the country.
Parbatya Bangali Chhatra Parishad and Parbatya Nagarik Parishad, two platforms of Bangali people linked to different political parties, are leading the anti-adivasi movement, apparently without any obstruction from the administration, law enforcers and ruling party supporters.
They have been staging demonstrations and enforcing shutdowns on a regular basis, and campaigning online and offline to drum up public support against the indigenous people’s demands, which includes solution to the land disputes.
On Wednesday, the Bangali groups are observing a dawn-to-dusk hartal in Rangamati and Khagrachhari districts to protest the murder of a Bangali for-hire motorcycle driver, blaming the UPDF for it, without proof.
Sadikul of Mohalchhari in Khagrachhari was abducted on April 10. His body was found buried at Rangamati’s Naniarchar three days later.
Chhatra Parishad’s Rangamati unit General Secretary Md Jahangir Alam claimed Sadikul was a member of their Mohalchhari upazila unit committee.
Police have arrested one of the two persons accused in the case, filed by the deceased’s brother on April 14. The detainee, Poltu Chakma, has been placed on a three-day remand. Poltu resides in Naniarchar area.
According to the case, Poltu and another youth hired Sadikul from Mohalchhari went to nearby Naniarchar on that day.
Naniarchar police Sub-Inspector Shahjahan, who is investigating the murder case, suspected that Poltu has no political affiliation, but he could be a supporter of the UPDF group.
“We are not ruling out the possibility of a past enmity behind the murder.”
Usually, the criminals abduct businessmen and release them later after realising a ransom. “But this case is different. The criminals killed Sadikul without demanding money from his family,” Shahjahan told the Dhaka Tribune.
‘Ban adivasi groups’
Since Wednesday morning, the supporters of the Bangali groups have been seen parading the streets of the town to enforce the general strike, our Rangamati correspondent reports.
Buses and launch services have remained suspended due to the shutdown.
Kotwali police’s Officer-in-Charge Abdur Rashid said the hartal had been peaceful. “We have deployed additional police at the important points of the town to avert any untoward incident,” the OC added.
Chhatra Parishad’s Jahangir said that they enforced the hartal since the police had failed to arrest the main culprits behind the murder.
“From today’s hartal, we have urged the government to ban the regional groups that are involved in abduction, murder and extortion, and are trying to gain autonomy in the CHT,” he claimed.
UPDF Coordinator Michael Chakma has refuted the allegations.
“A certain quarter is using Parbatya Bangali Chhatra Parishad to spread hatred against the adivasi groups and the communities in general. They are saying things they have been taught to say,” Michael said.